Unencumbered by Success: The Usenix Security Grand Challenge Competition

TitleUnencumbered by Success: The Usenix Security Grand Challenge Competition
Publication TypeTechnical Report
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsWeaver, N.
Other Numbers2874

During Usenix Security 2009, I was part of a team (consisting of myself, Anup Ghosh, and Giovanni Vigna) which hosted a competition for an “Unhackable Server,” sponsored by the National Science Foundation and BAE systems. Overall, I would rate the competition a failure, but a useful failure: what could have been a major disaster turned out to be only a minor embarrassment. This was due to multiple factors, including misjudging the difference between a competition of skill verses a competition of artifacts, lack of publicity, a poorly chosen prize amount, neglecting to account for the coolness vs. money trade off, and some competition logistic difficulties. Yet at the same time, the final results were not purely negative: the competition could be perceived as a success and we learned critical lessons for future competitions.


This work was made possible by National Science Foundation grant CNS: 0749648 (“Architecting Effective Computer Security Grand Challenge”). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors or originators and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation or the other contest organizers.

Bibliographic Notes

ICSI Technical Report TR-10-004

Abbreviated Authors

N. Weaver

ICSI Research Group

Networking and Security

ICSI Publication Type

Technical Report